Presented by: Hotel Executive

Author: Felicia Hyde, Principal/ Design Director, H. Hendy Associates

From off-the-beaten-path activities to one-of-a-kind amenities, adventurers today want more than a five-star accommodation or best-in-­class customer service. Rather, they want to travel as if they’re a local. Whether cultural, natural, artistic or culinary, modern travelers are craving memorable, hyper-local experiences and opportunities to find and indulge in the hidden jewels of each destination.

With 70% of travelers attributing positive hotel stays to out-of-the box experiences – according to IBM Global – hoteliers must think of ways to transform their properties from a “home base” to a destination where guests can live and breathe the history and culture. This is a concept already redefining multifamily communities nationwide. Here are four key design strategies hoteliers can apply to reimagine properties that not only become hotbeds for unique experiences and cultural immersion but supports guests· well-being and desire for self-discovery .

Research-Driven Design

Know your audience. This is key to imagining a hotel or multifamily property that emulates a unique and memorable experience for guests or residents. This process includes extensive demographics research to unveil the age, hobbies and professions of the local community as well as their needs, desires and preferences. This intel will become key drivers behind the design theme, strategy and concepts and directly inform the property’s room types, amenities, communal spaces, and more.

With 86% of young travelers looking for authenticity and cultural immersion in their vacations and travel experiences, it’s also critical for hoteliers to survey the surrounding community to better understand the city’s vibe, culture, and historical roots. Truly understanding what draws people to the area will enable a story to be woven through the property that serves to attract residents or guests.

For example, in designing Broadstone Cavora, a multifamily property in Laguna Niguel, California, interior architecture firm H. Hendy Associates, conducted research and resident surveys to better understand the local demographic. The firm also explored the surrounding area to get a sense of the lifestyle and ethos of the community. The team then leveraged this data to create a living experience that truly places residents at the center of it all.

Broadstone Cavora evokes a classic resort-like living experience, timeless yet cutting-edge decor and indulgent amenities that serve the city’s mix of 30-somethings who work at nearby businesses, students from neighboring colleges and divorcees. Key amenity spaces include a bike storage and tune-up room for Laguna Niguel’s bike enthusiasts; a resort-style pool with cabanas and BBQ areas; a clubhouse featuring shuffleboard table and a giant scrabble wall; and rooftop decks complete with fireplaces, daybeds and outdoor dining areas. The plein air palette of the property and wild mustard color incorporated throughout the common areas is pulled from the area landscape, and features nod to the love of horses and nature that is the cornerstone of Laguna Niguel’s culture.

Wellness Integration 2.0

From sensory deprivation tanks to on-demand fitness to goat yoga, there’s a steady stream of new methods and technology to help improve and sustain our physical and mental well-being. A new study by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), revealed that the wellness market is growing at historic rate -12.8% in the last two years – with wellness tourism being one of the fastest-growing categories, accounting for $639 billion in 2018 and projected to reach $919 billion by 2022. GWI also reported that world travelers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017 and experts predict that by the end of this year the numbers could reach 1 billion.

Essentially, as consumers incorporate wellness values and practices into their lifestyle, they also will expect innovative wellness options in their travel accommodation. Wellness design and integration will need to go beyond traditional fitness centers, biophilic design and healthy dining options in order to attract today’s health-conscious and experience-driven travelers. These wellness design strategies and amenities are already shaking up the multifamily industry and could be incorporated into hotels:

Meditation and Healing Spaces

Meditation is becoming a regular wellness practice for consumers world-wide, and spaces to practice yoga are already being incorporated into living environments. Soon, travelers will expect the same offering in their hotel destinations. To provide guests with the relaxation and refuge they traveled for, hoteliers should consider integrating meditation rooms into their property, along with instructor-led yoga and alternative healing classes.

Fitness On Demand

Due to high-tech fitness equipment, online programs and smart phone applications, we’ve officially moved to an era of fitness on demand, where time or place can no longer hinder physical activity. Examples seen in multifamily communities include Peloton bike stations enabling users to live stream and engage in indoor cycling classes and on-demand fitness rooms where tenants can stream a variety of workout classes – from strength training, cardio, Zumba, yoga, and more – at their convenience.

Self-Care Amenities

From myriad TedEx talks to books, podcasts, and self-care focused applications, this preventative health measure turned movement was named the top health trend in 2018 by global research firm, Mintel. With 94 percent of millennials – the largest traveler demographic today – reported to have made self-care commitments of up to $300 a month, hotel properties should consider integrating more amenities that serve the mind, body and soul. Examples include a Himalayan salt room for detoxification, sensory deprivation tanks to induce relaxation, and infrared saunas to increase oxygen flow and circulation.

Digital Detox: Desire for Authentic Experiences

It’s no secret that we live in a world of all things digital where technology is integrated in almost all that we do. Our constant reliance on automation to enter a building, drive a car, and update social networks means that we are always ‘on’ and research shows this had led to an increase in stress, anxiety, illness and ultimately technology burnout.

According to Skift’s Megatrends Defining Travel in 2019, consumers today are yearning for a digital detox and there’s a growing demand for more authentic experiences. This leaves hoteliers with the challenge of how to design properties that balance technology integration with opportunities for face-to-face interaction and cultural experiences. The following are amenities and communal spaces that can help support this trend:

Popup Shops and Art Exhibitions

To deliver on guests’ desire for authenticity and cultural experiences, consider designing a space in which local vendors (i.e. food and wine merchants, retail shops and craft makers) can rent space to exhibit their local goods. This helps infuse the local culture into the hotel property, draw in other travelers and residents and provides guests with a taste of what the city has to offer without leaving the property. While art in hotels has been a trend for some time, hoteliers also should consider incorporating gallery spaces and offer guests a rotation of exhibits by local art curators.

Reading Lounges

While coworking and high-tech meeting spaces have been the craze for business travelers over the years, and will continue to grow, hoteliers should balance technology-driven environments with simpler, authentic spaces that bring people together. An amenity that’s becoming more popular in multifamily properties and that serves to attract consumers of all ages, is reading lounges and library spaces. These simple, tech-free areas are not necessarily designed to be quiet zones but rather, feature comfortable seating and coffee counters for interaction, idea sharing and book club gatherings.

Cooking Classes, Demonstrations

A large part of receiving a cultural experience for travelers is the chance to indulge in the local cuisine. This should go beyond a hotel restaurant and a menu choc-full of local delicacies. In addition, hoteliers should consider offering guests the opportunity to learn a new cuisine through cooking classes, tastings and demonstrations with local culinarians and top chefs.

A Destination for Locals, Too

Instilling a sense of community, attachment and pride about where people live, work and play has become a common practice for owners and developers across commercial real estate property types. So, it is only natural that this trend has begun to disrupt the hospitality industry and was named one of the top hotel interior design trends for 2019, according to Commercial Property Executive.

Hotels today are becoming more than a destination for travelers. It’s a city center for locals to enjoy. Essentially, when a hotel engages the local community, it can help support the company’s bottom line by providing a steady revenue during slower times of the year. From a marketing standpoint, catering to locals also can help publicize and build a hotel’s credibility. If locals have a positive experience, they are more likely to recommend the hotel to friends and travelers and even share their positive feedback on social media and review sites.

Key Takeaways

Desire for experiential travel is showing no signs of slowing down. Rather, the demand for culinary experiences, cultural exploration, and activity-based travel will only continue to rise. In order for hotel owners and developers to provide the custom experience travelers are after, they will need to do their homework to uncover how their target demographic lives, works and plays. This is at the core of truly understanding the local history and culture to give travelers that “live-like-a-local” experience. Remember, if you really want your hotel to be coined an “experience-driven destination,” this means you also need to draw in and gain the support of locals, too.

A company that has seamlessly adopted this concept includes the Bedderman Lodging Co., a Chicago-based pioneer of alternative lodging and hyper-local hospitality. Inspired by the field houses spread throughout Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods that provide a place for community interaction, Bedderman imagined four boutique hotels that offer flexible room types, bespoke communal spaces, super-local food and drinks, inspired events, and box-fresh art. The “Field House Jones” location, formerly a warehouse in the River North district, has become a physical and social home-away-from-home for locals and travelers alike with spaces and decor that nod to the building’s historic roots.

Key spaces include the “DropShot Coffee Bar and Snack Shop” a bustling cafe experience featuring third wave coffee and specialty drinks; the “Chef’s Kitchen,” a customizable event space and ideal setting for small parties, private dinners and culinary demonstrations; the “Slot Car” room, an event space that takes visitors back in time with custom-built, vintage-style slot car tracks and the “Janitor’s Closet,” a dimly lit subterranean speakeasy that pays homage to its former purpose, a fully-functioning janitor’s closet when the building housed the old Borden Dairy Depot.